French Country Bread is a another light rye recipe which was popular at our Leura Bakery back in 1995 to about 2000. It's a 'Semi Leaven' bread, because it contains some sourdough starter and a tiny amount of yeast, which creates a substantial bread, and which has just a hint of rye for colour and flavour. The rye also provides a great
crust - not too crisp, but chewy and with a distinctive earthy colour.
All light rye breads have their origins in northern Europe and Canada, where only rye grain can survive the cold temperatures experienced in winter. Because it's blended with about ten parts wheat, the rye flavour is very subtle, and contributes to the greyish colour and open texture. Rye flour is enzyme rich, and really does provide a good basis for leavening the bread.
Still much faster than the typical sourdough recipes - this one can comfortably be made at lunchtime in time for dinner. There are only ten or fifteen minutes of actual handling time.
The Light Rye Semi Leaven Bread from this recipe is very suitable for daily use, especially good with cured meats and salted fish, strong ripe brie, avocado, salmon, marmalade or other tangy jams. It looks very rustic on a plate, served with dips or flavoursome pastes, and the list goes on. The flavour is milder than a sourdough, but still you get that sensational aftertaste, making you just want to eat more.
This bread can use any form of starter you have - liquid or dough sourdough starter. Just remember to adjust the water level a bit, according to how dry or wet your starter is.
If the flavour of rye is still too much, it's worth experimenting with using half as much, and giving the balance of flour weight to the white flour. Yes, even 50 grams of rye makes a difference!
French Country Bread
1kg of organic white flour (regular white flour will do if you are unable to access organic flour, or are a cheapskate, like me, at times...)
100g of organic rye flour (rye can be hard to get so try your local health food store)
550 - 750 mls of warm water
12 grams of dried yeast.
24 grams of cooking salt
You'll also need:
Two Bread Tins. This recipe makes two Loaves of about a kilo each. You can experiment with tin sizes until you find one that suits this slightly-lighter-than-sourdough loaf.
Mix almost all the fairly warm water (warmer than luke warm) with the Starter, old dough or whatever you have, stirring them together to combine with a heavy whisk or a fork, till it's softened all the starter. You can leave this to stand for ten minutes if you like.
Sprinkle about 200 grams of the light flour over the mixture and add the yeast. Whisk it all together to form a loose paste with a heavy whisk or large spoon.
Allow to stand, covered, in a warm place for an hour to form a sponge. I put mine on top of my coffee machine.
Add in the rest of the flour and combine the wet and dry ingredients. You may need a splash more water to do this, but be sparing - at this stage the dough looks dry, but it will soften soon.
Knead with both hands roughly till they form a big chunk of dough, no matter how rough. Rough is good. Cover, and leave in a warm place. If it's too tight, you can work water through the dough in this phase. It'll come apart, so add gradually - just a tablespoon at a time. This dough will soften as it hydrates, so it's better to start with a stiff dough.
Allow to rest for an hour or so. I've rested this before adding salt for hours, and it's been fine - though there doesn't seem to be much benefit in a long sponge.
Add salt by wetting the dough with either a spray gun or wet hands, sprinkling the salt over the top of the wet dough. You will notice a dramatic transformation from the rough chunk you left an hour ago to this smooth thing in your hands now.
Knead it in until combined, which will be when the salt can't be felt as you knead. Round the dough, and leave with the seam on the bottom.
Let the finished dough rest and rise for about an hour or two, depending on the season. It's ready when you poke it and there is little, if any, resistance. It feels like it has given up. Your finger marks will stay there for a while. If it resists, it isn't ready. If the weather is warmer, resting times will decrease, so keep an eye on it.
Now cut the dough into two chunks of roughly one kilogram each. Round them, with the seam at the bottom. Rest for an hour or so. Again, if you poke the dough and it resists, it isn't ready yet. If it feels like it is giving in, it's ready.
Form into two cylinders, just by squeezing the bottom in with the outside of each of both hands, as if you are holding an open book in both palms. Spray or wipe with water, and dust with semolina or wholemeal flour or bran. Place dusted dough in a pre oiled bread tin.
Slash in a diagonal direction two or three times. Allow to rise, covered, for about an hour - this bread rises quite a bit, and if it's been made tough to start with, the more the better. When the tin is broached by about a quarter of the dough inside, in other words when the dough has risen well out of the tin, it's ready for baking. If you've made good dough, you can achieve a good height in this loaf.
Bake at 160 - 180 degrees in a prepared oven (see 'how to use an oven properly') for 45 to 60 minutes.
This recipe tends to be a winner every time - keep it in mind when you're a bit time pressed, or want to use some starter which might not be ideally ripenened. Because of the small amount of yeast, the state of your sourdough starter is largely irrelevant to the result.
Happy Sourdough Baking!